Dressed in their trademark jeans, t-shirts and kick-ass Dr Martens’ boots, sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell, otherwise known as Larkin Poe, march out onto the stage at Sala But (AKA ‘La Paqui’) in Madrid, ready to raise hell and party like only they know how. It is 12 May 2022, which happens to be Megan’s birthday and - after a horrible couple of years - both Larkin Poe and the audience are up for a big night of celebration.
With seven large round lamps directed at the audience Larkin Poe burst straight into a Zeppelinesque rock start, with Self-made Man, the title track of their latest album. Rebecca kicks off with a Gretsch G6129T Jet, her new aquisition, while Megan shines on her faithful lap steel; a B6 Rickenbacker from the 50’s, but both get a huge roar whenever they take the lead.
It is difficult to choose a favourite song from their rich back catalogue but the pop-oriented Keep Diggin’ immediately gets the faithful dancing and cheering. “It is great to be reunited after so long - we’re from Nashville Tennessee, and we are hoping to give you a good night,” says Rebecca, now with her faithful Stratocaster, as she launches into Trouble in Mind and leads an audience clap-along. Suddenly everyone is singing ‘happy birthday to you’ to Megan, who is turning 33 tonight, and, just like they did the last time the band were in Madrid, the crowd start chanting “Oé, Oé, Oé, Oé!” and Rebecca responds by saying “you are after our hearts!”
The rocking Beach Blonde Bottle Blues is next up and as Rebecca and the crowd share the chorus of “I said ooh, child, what you gonna do […] With them bleach blond bottle blues,” it is clear how much everyone has been missing the magic of live performance. “We were so looking forward to coming back,” says Rebecca, “we have so many lovely memories from here.”
Larkin Poe love to rock out but they are at heart a southern blues band and they confirm those credentials by playing Son House’s song Preachin’ the Blues. “We fell in love with the blues at the same time as we heard this,” explains Rebecca about the sisters’ musical beginnings. Son House’s 1967 acoustic classic touches the soul, but if you want to see whether or not the blues is alive and well, you just need to hear Larkin Poe’s take on it, sounding ferocious on a Fender Reverb turned up to 11, and the reaction of a packed house in Spain’s capital city.
Holy Ghost Fire finds the sisters ‘testifying how they lost themselves and their souls’, and they then go deeper into blues’ history by playing John the Revelator, recorded in 1930 by Blind Willie Johnson, and covered by many others.
The lyrically-substantial Back Down South, composed by Rebecca and her husband Tyler Bryant, is then ingeniously mashed up with the Allman Brothers’ Blue Sky, which provokes big cheers from the audience.
The register changes when Rebecca explains that she wrote the following song, Mad as a Hatter, at the age of 17, which as she explained in her exclusive interview with Guitars Exchange is about schizophrenia in her family and her fears that it might be passed on through the generations. Rebecca dedicates it to their grandfather, and anyone who knows a person suffering with mental health issues. “Please don’t come for me,” she pleads, which provokes a moment of reflection, especially in the context of recent events.
The mood is lifted again when Rebecca announces that Larkin Poe have a new album to be released later this year and that they would like to play one song from that record tonight. It was difficult to hear the lyrics among the cheering but the recently-debuted song is called Bad Spell - and the good news is that it sounds amazing!
Suddenly Rebecca has the crowd in a call and response, and soon is singing without her guitar as the band pay homage to their roots by singing along to Robert Johnson’s Come On In My Kitchen.
The Lovell sisters are outstanding professionals who have the crowd in the palm of their hands from the start, but they also feel the unrestrained joy of the audience, and when Rebecca puts her hand on her heart and says “We love you so much, take care of yourselves,” it is clear that they are also touched by the experience. It may have been Megan’s birthday party, but tonight, in Madrid, the celebration was everybody’s.